The strife that had Québec students protesting on the streets for months, lately referred to as the “Maple Spring ”, has finally come to an end.
With Jean Charest of the Liberal Party no longer in power, the new premier, Pauline Marois of the Parti Québécois, scrapped the tuition fee hikes within the first 24 hours of taking office. In her first cabinet meeting, Marois came through on a promise she had made before the elections.
“I’m sorry, but Mr. Charest is profoundly responsible for what is going on right now,” she said on the day that she cut the tuition hike. Charest’s plan was to start with an increase of $600, and gradually increase fees year by year. This increase was meant to guarantee that there would be enough funding for the universities , and several polls have suggested that the majority of the Québécois supported it.For example, the Québec Employers’ Council held a survey that showed that 95% of those surveyed were in favour of the tuition increase.
“It is important to know the opinion of Québec employers in the current situation, because it is they who provide jobs to college and university students educated in our institutions,” the council said in a statement.
Although the planned tuition increase has been cut, Marois has stated that there will still be an increase in line with the rate of inflation. This will be anywhere from one to three percent most years, which isn’t much compared to the 84% that the Liberal government under Charest had suggested. Marois did, however , state that she will be holding a summit within the first 100 days of being in office to discuss the increase.
“That’s a proposal I’m putting on the table,” Marois said. “It’s a debate we need to have.”
She promised to cancel Bill 78, the controversial legislation adopted in May to stop the protests. The law states that protesting and picketing cannot take place on or near university grounds. It further states that protest groups of 50 or more people must give the police advance notice of their venue or route for approval. Charest passed this emergency law because the protests at the time led to arrests, riots, and even to the resignation of the Minister of Education . Some local subway stops were even smoke-bombed.
“I think we have to find a way to have a peaceful climate, and that’s why I suggest an election truce,” said Parti Québécois candidate Léo Bureau-Blouin.
Now that the tuition hike is history, Québec post secondary students will be paying an average of $2, 774 a year for an undergraduate degree, according to Statistics Canada. This is still the second-lowest in Canada; Newfoundland and Labrador students pay the least.
Ontario students are currently paying approximately $7,180 a year, higher than the national average of $5,581. In the last year, Ontario postsecondary students saw an increase of 5.4% . These figures only apply to domestic full-time students, and do not include the costs of transportation and books.If the student is living in residence, and is an international student, then tuition is usually about twice as high.
The Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante was the body that energized students across Québec to march in protest of the proposed tuition hike. “We are many youth, but with one struggle” is their manifesto.
Now that the “Maple Spring” has won its first victory, ASSÉ has adopted the long-term goal of free education for all.